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Nintendo Games Technology

This Guy Is Digitizing the VHS History of Video Games (vice.com) 87

An anonymous reader shares a report: UK-based gaming journalist and blogger Chris Scullion is on a mission to preserve his collection -- and maybe your collection, too -- of these old video game VHS tapes. In the 80s and 90s, video game companies and trade magazines made these tapes to accompany popular titles or new issues with bonus material or promotional footage, giving a glimpse into how marketing for games was done in the industry's early days. Scullion has 18 tapes to upload so far, and plans to provide accompanying commentary as well as the raw video as they go up on his YouTube channel. Scullion's first upload is a promotional tape for Super Mario All-Stars, given away by Nintendo UK in 1993. It's hosted by Craig Charles, who played Lister in the British sci-fi sitcom Red Dwarf. Digitizing his collection keeps that sweet nostalgia content safe from degradation of the magnetic tape, which starts to go downhill within 10 to 25 years. He's capturing them in HD using a 1080p upscaler, at a full 50fps frame rate by converting to HDMI before grabbing -- a higher frame rate than many standard commercial digitizing devices that capture at 30fps -- so that no frames are missed. Some of the tapes he's planning to digitize have already been converted and uploaded to YouTube by other people, he says, but most are either poor quality or captured with less-advanced grabbing devices.
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This Guy Is Digitizing the VHS History of Video Games

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  • Everyday I come to this site, and everyday I think we'll talk about some exciting tech news. But all that's here is news about some dude recording video tapes in his basement and people being mad about beta software not working.

    It's almost as if the editors aren't actually nerds.

    • I would think that nerdship (nerdom? nerdity?) would positively correlate with positive opinion of other people preserving vanishing historical accounts for future historians.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        Not if it's PAL! God damn, PAL video sucks huge donkey balls. You gotta give the British credit for adopting the metric system, but a 50Hz refresh rate? Blind idiots.

        • It did have higher resolution than NTSC and much better color, too. The reason why it was 50Hz is that their electrical grid was 50Hz and back in the old days, the TV's would use the AC frequency as a sync timer. Since the US has 60Hz AC, NTSC used 60 Hz as their "clock".

      • I do wish there were links and information to the tech he's using for the VHS digital transfers.

        I have some old VHS tapes I'd really like to digitize, but don't know where to start, and I'd really have no problem spending the $$ to get the right stuff to do it right like it sounds like this guy is doing.....

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by RadioD00d ( 714469 )
          Keeping in mind that VHS resolution is 480p AT BEST, and you're not going to improve it unless you do lots of filtering (I'm sure there are companies which will do that for you, but I can't afford that kind of service). I have a VHS player / DVD recorder that is relatively simple to operate. I have managed to transfer most of my VHS stuff (personal videos, weddings, parties, like that) to DVD, from which I can rip MP4s with ease. I'm sure there are easier/more efficient/better quality ways, but these videos
          • by Anonymous Coward

            I transferred my family's VHS and Hi-8 video using a Canopus ADVC-300 that we picked up for cheap at a yard sale. That does time base correction to compensate for stretched tape, and handles the analog-to-digital conversion using the DV codec. Granted, DV is 4:1:1 chroma subsampling with JPEG-like compression, fixed 25mbit, so it's far from lossless, but it has fewer block artifacts than your typical MPEG-2 capture to DVD.
            I kept it at 480i rather than upscaling, then encoded to MP4 for viewing while keepi

        • I just digitized a Banjo-Kazooie promo video with Jon Lovitz. I used Diamond Multimedia USB 2.0 Video Capture Device, about $40 on Amazon.

        • Well that guy is an idiot as he upscales the stuff to 1080p which is completely pointless and only provides degradation of quality.

          The smart thing to do is to use a propper framegrabber which does no deinterlacing. Firewire ones are good and their 25 MBps codec is practically lossless, yet gets down the data to a decent size. Also they both capture audio and video in perfect sync.

          Then, and only then, you de-interlace in software to get the 50 or 60 fps. ffmpeg or avconv can do that easily.

          For (S-)VHS or oth

        • There are, or were, VHS players that burn straight to DVD. You might find them on eBay or even Amazon. Otherwise, there are numerous VHS to digital converters for about $30 on Amazon. Your best avenue of making good conversions would probably be spent trying to research and get the best VHS player however. Also, converting to 1080p or the like is probably a fool's game. As others have mentioned, VHS is more like 480 and unless running some weird digital clean up which would probably run fine on 480, the inc
      • by the_skywise ( 189793 ) on Friday September 22, 2017 @01:55PM (#55245691)
        I think because, as nerds, we've all actually... DONE IT.

        I have. i transferred several old VHS tapes of various shows and such that aren't produced anymore as well as some old recordings I made way back when on my parent's VCR. I had the actual original airing of the first Borg contact on ST:TNG. Ironically, i decided to digitzie it not because it was ST:TNG (I can get blu-rays for that) or the first airing but because of the commercials!
        Before that I digitized my old Laserdisc copies of Space Ace and Dragon's Lair.
        I had a buncha old CD's from NextGen that I tossed though but those were all windows based and probably wouldn't have worked anymore.
        I also scanned all my grandfather's slides using an actual film/slide scanner. (Something I thought would be a few months' of weekends that stretched into 4 years)
        • >I think because, as nerds, we've all actually... DONE IT.

          So long ago, too. I've actually forgotten what my setup was, though I doubt it was archival quality (not that you can tell with VHS's sub-broadcast quality to start with). I probably just had a coax connection to a capture card and manually trimmed the raw file before leaving it to encode over the next few days.

          It was the kind of thing I did once, to preserve a family video, and then after the experience vowed was not worth the effort and I'd ra

          • by ncc74656 ( 45571 ) *

            So long ago, too. I've actually forgotten what my setup was, though I doubt it was archival quality

            Last time I did a VHS-to-DVD conversion, I plugged a VCR into a Hauppauge WinTV PVR150 (or was it a PVR250?) and set its MPEG-2 compressor to the highest available framerate. Since I was also looking to convert from PAL to NTSC (for which I had borrowed a multisystem VCR), I slowed the video down from 25 fps to 24000/1001 fps and scaled the video from 720x576 to 720x480 before reencoding for final output.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Everyday I come to this site

      Well there's your problem.

    • You can't get more nerdy than that!
    • It's almost as if the editors aren't actually nerds.

      Are you kidding? This is one of the nerdiest posts I've seen on Slashdot in a while. I'm re-reading the passage from TFA below, and I cannot imagine how it could be much nerdier.

      "Scullion's first upload is a promotional tape for Super Mario All-Stars, given away by Nintendo UK in 1993. It's hosted by Craig Charles, who played Lister in the British sci-fi sitcom Red Dwarf. Digitizing his collection keeps that sweet nostalgia content safe from degradation

    • by hal2814 ( 725639 )
      This seems like legit news for nerds. Most of the posts do. I see a post about cyber attacks, a post about Amazon's suggestions algorithm going awry, this post, the obligatory FOSS post (this time pertaining to patents), Apple's latest portable touchscreen Next cube isn't selling, and so on. Maybe the problem is that you're just not excited by the news anymore. It seems to be a pretty good cross section of news for nerds and stuff that would matter to nerds.
  • Curious about capture method(s) I have a D-VHS deck which among other things... will output analog VHS to firewire.... I would be interested in seeing a delta on this capture versus D-VHS to FW... still.. very cool.

    • Considering he's using an HDMI upscaler just to get the framerate right, I'm not so sure it's a perfect setup. Though it might be a cheap trick that works well, I don't understand the advantage over capturing 480i video at 50Hz. Upscaling is really only going to help force Youtube to allocate a decent amount of bandwidth, but that can be done with a software scaler in post-processing.

      • I don't think he's using the upscaler to get the framerate right, he's using it to convert 480i (576i?) to 1080i(p?). I have no idea why he insists on up-scaling the video to a resolution that's not an exact multiple of 480/576 - afterall, if you put the video at the source-resolution on Youtube, the viewers can choose whether or not to view it at fullscreen (whose resolution varies according to which monitor is displaying it) or in a window at it's original resolution, and the upscaling will be done at the

        • IIRC, standard PAL VHS tapes record video at 25Hz instead of 50fps, and in doing so, somehow merge two 50Hz interlaced frames into one 25Hz non-interlaced frame.

          For movies, 24fps film is generally sped up to 25fps during the telecine process. While they could use basic frame doubling to get 50Hz out of it, it would be better to cram in extra vertical resolution from the film on the alternate field. I don't know which is standard.

          Either way, that wouldn't apply for video/broadcast content or content generated by an actual SNES (which some of this is).

          If someone has a 720p monitor, they will end up watching a down-scaled version of an up-scaled video..... but for some reason, his device insists on upscaling everything to 1080p.

          He already said that he did this to get 50 fps (which doesn't make a lot of sense, because plenty of analog capture

  • by Luthair ( 847766 ) on Friday September 22, 2017 @01:52PM (#55245671)
    The My Life in Gaming guys and some others in NA have already done this to some extent, can find things on Youtube.
  • As the years go by, I am amazed by how much history is overlooked. For example, I thought that I was an uber Star Wars nerd, until I realized that I had never heard of the Holiday special. Despite being cheesy, it was our first introduction to Bobba Fett.
  • Um, okay... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Friday September 22, 2017 @02:59PM (#55246169)

    collection keeps that sweet nostalgia content safe from degradation of the magnetic tape, which starts to go downhill within 10 to 25 years. He's capturing them in HD using a 1080p upscaler, at a full 50fps frame rate by converting to HDMI before grabbing -- a higher frame rate than many standard commercial digitizing devices that capture at 30fps -- so that no frames are missed.

    Why?

    VHS only has about 333x480 (NTSC) or 335x576 (PAL) resolution in luminosity, much lower color resolution. There is no point capturing it at higher resolution - you're just wasting storage space with duplicated or made-up pixels.

    The framerate thing I can sorta understand - both NTSC and PAL were interlaced. So for example, the actual resolution of NTSC VHS was 333x240 @ 60 fps interlaced, which when deinterlaced (the alternate lines of video interpolated) created 333x480 frames @ 60 fps. While modern computer video formats do support interlacing, I've noticed annoying artifacts when they're converted badly (you'll see horizontal lines during quick panning or quick horizontal movement). So I can understand.capturing at 333x480 @ 60 fps when it only contains 333x240 @ 60 fps of information.

    Maybe if he had access to the original Betacam tapes I could understand capturing in HD. Those had 720x480 or 720x576 resolution with 10-bit 4:2:2 chroma compression. But if your source media is plain VHS...

  • PAL is 50 FIELDS per second, not frames.

    There are 50 vertical fields per second interleaved with each other. Each field consists of every other line, so each field is half the vertical resolution of the full signal.
    There are 576 vertical scan lines in the signal, so each field is 288 lines.

    The human eye is fooled into seeing a full 50 frames per second due to the high field rate.

    By converting to 50 FRAMES per second, he is interpolating each field into a full frame signal.

    So in this case, each field is be

    • He would be better off leaving it at 480-50P

      I don't think YouTube does 50p at 480. You have to go to 720p at minimum.

      So in this case, each field is being doubled to a frame

      It looks like whatever he used has done something a bit more sophisticated than simply doubling lines.

      If he's really serious about archiving, he should capture as 576i and save it losslessly, or at a high bitrate, then he can work from that to make his outputs. It sounds like he just captured an upscale from some box or other though. I'm not convinced it's done a perfect job. There seem to be some odd

      The actual spatial resolution of a VHS tape is about 200 lines anyway. (the amount of detail you can perceive inside that higher resolution signal)

      Not vertically it isn't. You can ge

  • Video Game B-Roll by My Life in Gaming have been doing this for over a year and have almost 50 full promo videos on YouTube, in HD, with no commentary: https://www.youtube.com/user/V... [youtube.com]

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